Enki Bilal and other treasures of the French comic book scene


As a comic book nerd, one of the coolest things in France is the great comic book (bande dessinée) selection. Comic books or BD as they are often referred to here are read by a wide variety of people and available in great numbers at your local Fnac, Virgin, or library (I mean than in the English way). Here’s a few of the BD that I personally enjoy. It is in no way a comprehensive selection, but certainly somewhere to start.

For those learning French, what better way to learn how to read in a new language than looking at pictures?

Enki Bilal

A well known French comic book artist originally from Yugoslavia, Enki Bilal is best known for the Nikopol trilogy, first published in 1980. Readers will recognize a lot of characters strait out of Star Gate or the Fifth Element. I’m not sure who inspired who, but fans of space opera and science fiction will find their fill.

Jacques Tardi

The Adèle Blanc-Sec series will appeal to those who like murder mysteries combined with supernatural elements, think Sherlock Holmes. It’s a fun look at a classic France, complete with stereotypes of baguettes, striped shirts, cigarettes and wine. I’ll admit that the series gets more complicated and stranger as time goes on, so you were warned. Don’t miss out on this classic of BD.

Margaux Motin and Pénélope Bagieu

Much as I like space opera and murder mysteries, I like getting my hands on a good dose of chick lit from time to time, combined with a hot cup of tea and some cozy slippers. I’m not pretending that this is great literature and it does not do a whole lot for women’s rights, but sometimes I need a good dose of Twilight or Juliette Society.

Pénélope Bagieu writes the well-known Joséphine series about a young woman with an abnormally large rear and a very small chest looking for love. Joséphine was also recently made into a rather charming firm if you are the type that likes romantic comedies about awkward women.

Margaux Motin is a humor blogger and comic book artist, who writes about her own experiences as a 20-something woman in France (she’s now in her thirties). Readers will get an insight into French life and maybe find a little of themselves in Margaux as well. I recommend J’aurais adoré être ethnologue and La théorie de la contorsion. In the fantasy genre, she also wrote Very Bad Twinz, but there’s a lot better out there.

Finally, if you’re still missing American comic books, there’s a lot of great series translated into French (thank you Urban Comics). This is critical for me since my husband refuses to read any fun books in English. He claims that reading for pleasure in English defeats the whole purpose (too much work).

I’ll be looking out for the newest Fables, Fairest and Saga this winter and spring. If you haven’t heard of it yet, Saga is a great new sci-fi series from Image Comics. I didn’t know about them until Saga, but I’m really glad Urban Comics took on the translation of this series. There’s a lot of great art and the writing is thoughtful and funny.

Well, this comic book nerd needs to go to bed. Happy reading and bonne nuit.


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